Dhaka (Bangladesh), 17 October, 2017: As the Hero Asia Cup 2017 inches closer to an exciting summit clash on Sunday, October 22, Pakistan, India, Malaysia and Korea who have qualified for the Super 4s stage are gearing up for top-quality action to ensure a spot in the final.
Having won three back-to-back matches in their respective pools, Malaysia and India would like to carry on their winning momentum while defending champions Korea will vie for the top spot to win an entry for the Odisha Men’s World Cup next year. Pakistan, on the other hand, want make a fresh start to the tournament and after a spirited performance against India on Sunday, team skipper Muhammad Irfan is confident his team can bounce back in the tournament.
On taking on Malaysia in their first Super 4s match on Wednesday, the 27-year-old Pakistani skipper said, “We want to make a fresh start to the tournament. We want to consider the league matches as our training for the Super 4s as the challenge really begins now. I feel we played well against India though the effort did not convert into a win, our defence was good and we even created many chances in their circle but their goalkeeper Akash Chikte made some very good saves.”
However, it was the match against Japan that the skipper is unhappy about and having watched videos from their performance in the three pool stage matches, Irfan feels the team needs to bring out their A-game if they want to make the final. “For now, we are thinking about the match against Malaysia. They are good with counter and PCs. We missed out on PC chances against India and don’t want to repeat the same mistakes against Malaysia. We had a short training session today and one of the main areas we worked on was PC conversion,” added the skipper. The last time these two teams met, Pakistan had beaten Malaysia in the Semi Final of Asian Champions Trophy in Malaysia last year.
Malaysian Coach Stephen van Huizen, meanwhile, wants his team to continue their winning performance in the Super 4s. “It was good to get a winning start but the tournament really begins now. India and Pakistan are tough teams to beat and we would like to bring our best skill set against them,” he said after a formidable 7-1 win against bottom-ranked Oman in their last Pool B encounter.
India who take on defending champions Korea want to be patient in their approach against a testing Korean defence when they take them on in their first Super 4s match. “Korea are good on counter and we need to be aware of that. They can test us with strong defence and I want the players to be patient when they play against them,” expressed Indian team Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne on the eve of their match.
India should ideally have a plan specifically for Jonghyun Jang who was exceptional with his dragflick against Oman on Sunday. “They are good with PC, yes. We just need to make sure our defence in the circle is strong,” Marijne added. Korea has always been a tough side to beat for India. The last time the two teams played, India won in penalty shootout after a 2-2 draw in regulation time.
Seok Kyo Shin, the Korean National Coach , feels that that his team will have to play their natural game without feeling the pressure of qualifying for the 2018 Men’s World Cup. “We know this is our best chance to qualify for the World Cup but I would like the team to focus on the first match against India and make sure we create early chances to put pressure on the Indian defence,” he said.
In the first match of the day, on October 18, Pakistan will take on Malaysia at 15.00 hours while India play Korea at 17.30 hours. In the classification match, Japan will play Oman at 20.00 hours.